Pac-12 M5: 12.03.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 3rd, 2012

  1. All things considered, it was a severely disappointing weekend for Pac-12 basketball, so let’s jump right into the week with the depressing news early and head to some better news towards the back end of the Morning Five. The most high-profile loss of the weekend for the conference was likely UCLA’s loss at the John Wooden Classic to San Diego State, a loss in which UCLA clearly abdicated the crown of California’s golden jewel of basketball programs to the Aztecs (if it hadn’t been abdicated earlier). And, in the wake of their early season struggles, Peter Yoon of puts the obvious into words: it is time to reassess this Bruin team, and the reassessment is not likely to be pretty. Yeah, there is certainly still talent here, but at this moment in time, a team that is starting three freshmen simply doesn’t have the experience yet to match up with a talented veteran squad like the Aztecs. There is still hope that a corner will be turned, but as Ben Howland put it after the game “there’s a lot of learning still that we’re doing.”
  2. At about the same time that UCLA was losing to the Aztecs, another Mountain West team was disposing of a highly regarded Pac-12 team, as Leonard Washington led Wyoming to a seven-point victory over Colorado. After the game, Tad Boyle laid the cards right on the table, pointing to CU’s turnovers and defensive struggles as the reasons for the loss. And he called out his team for its lack of cohesion, calling for players to accept their roles and play as a collective rather than a group of individuals. Really, when all is said and done, this loss may be a net positive for the team. As a young team, they’ve had some good success early in the season, but this being their first true road game, and one against a hard-nosed team, it is somewhat understandable that they didn’t bring their best. Look for Boyle to use this game as a lesson for his team as it heads into tougher games down the line. For the Buffaloes to again make their way through the minefield of Pac-12 road games, they’ll need to display a mental toughness that was severely lacking on Saturday night.
  3. And, speaking of a lack of mental toughness, California went into Madison yesterday and got absolutely drilled by Wisconsin, losing by 25 in a game in which they turned the ball over 23 times. Head coach Mike Montgomery blamed the loss on a poor week of practice, saying that “some of our guys just don’t prepare themselves for practice the way they should.” Like Colorado, Cal has had plenty of early season success, and a well-placed road game on the heels of all that success was a recipe for disaster. Allen Crabbe agreed with his coach, saying “we basically got what we deserved.” With visits from UNLV and Creighton due up next on the Golden Bears’ schedule, things aren’t going to get much easier, but at least Montgomery can use this loss as a wake-up call and he knows he’ll have those next two games in the friendly confines of Haas Pavilion.
  4. Okay, enough negativity, but we’ve got to transition from negativity to positivity slowly. So, we’ll mention that although Arizona kept alive its perfect record by going on the road and dispatching of Texas Tech, head coach Sean Miller still has some concerns about Mark Lyons as his lead guard. While Lyons leads the team in scoring with 14 points per night, he’s turning the ball over at a rate that far eclipses his ability to hand out assists to his teammates. But, Miller points out that although those turnovers are cause for concern, the coaching staff is addressing those concerns and that they’ve thus far found Lyons to be “a willing learner.” And, in the shadow of some of Lyons’ struggles, sophomore Nick Johnson has stepped into more of a lead-guard type of role and has handed out 13 assists against just one turnover in the past three games.
  5. And, to send you into the rest of your Monday will some full-fledged good news, Arizona State’s Evan Gordon broke out of a season-long slump in a big way on Saturday night, drilling five three-pointers in nine attempts (after hitting just 20.6% of his shots from deep in the team’s first six games) on his way to 29 points in the Sun Devils’ 20-point win over Sacramento State. Coming into the year, Gordon was expected to be a lights-out shooter on the wing, especially opposite penetrating point Jahii Carson, but his shot simply wasn’t falling early. For ASU to continue their winning ways, especially once they get to conference play, they’ll need Gordon to be a scorer for them on the wing, so while the early struggles with the shot can be discounted somewhat, it is comforting to see his shots begin to fall.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.19.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on November 19th, 2012

  1. Last year, the Pac-12 didn’t have a win over a ranked opponent all year. This past weekend, the Colorado Buffaloes managed to get that victory for the Pac-12 very early in the season. The Buffaloes beat the No. 16 Baylor Bears in the Charleston Classic before taking down the Murray State Racers in the final yesterday. Colorado’s Charleston Classic Title is the first step in proving that the Pac-12 is back, but also a step in the continued evolution of the Colorado program. They were able to beat Dayton, Baylor, and Murray State in the tournament, which will bode well for them come Selection Sunday when the committee is evaluating whether they should be in the field of 68. Sophomore guard Askia Booker was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after pouring in 58 points over the course of the weekend, leading his team in scoring in each game.
  2. What won’t help the Pac-12 is what Stanford did last night, losing a home non-conference game to the Belmont Bruins. Belmont is an experienced team that has gone 57-13 over the last two seasons, but this was supposed to be a win for Stanford in that it was played at Maples Pavillion. But, Dwight Powell got into foul trouble and the team continued to struggle from deep, hitting just two-of-19 three-pointers over the course of the night, making the Cardinal a miserable eight-of-50 from deep in their last three games. And things aren’t going to get any easier as the team heads to the Bahamas this week to take part in the Battle 4 Atlantis, with their opening game coming against Missouri. This was supposed to be Stanford’s year to return itself back to the top of the Pac-12 and losing at home non-conference game to a mid-major doesn’t help Johnny Dawkins. These are the type of games Dawkins needs to win to prove he is the right long-term coach for the Cardinal.
  3. UCLA‘s highly touted freshman Shabazz Muhammad will finally see his first action tonight in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Bruins looked sharp in their last game against James Madison, as they won 100-70 but will now face their toughest opponent this year, the Georgetown Hoyas. Muhammad should start in this game, but it will be interesting to see how he fares on the court and how many minutes he’ll get with freshman Jordan Adams and sophomore Norman Powell also looking for time. However, with Muhammad now fully back, the Bruins are a much better team and if they beat Georgetown, the final of the Classic on Tuesday night could represent a potential NCAA title game preview in setting the Bruins up against the #1 Indiana Hoosiers.
  4. Although the Oregon State Beavers were able to beat the Purdue Boilermakers 66-58 Friday night in the 2k Sports Classic, they were unable to play with Angus Brandt for the entire game as he injured his knee during the second half . He was unable to walk off the court without help and word came down yesterday that his injury would keep him out for the rest of the year. Brandt was averaging 11.3 PPG and 8.5 RPG this season after he was able to provide 9.1 PPG and 3.4 RPG last year for the Beavers. Craig Robinson’s team will sorely miss Brandt and his presence as it’s hard to replace a big man of Brandt’s size and skill, but at least the Beavers have big guys Devon Collier, Eric Moreland and Joe Burton ready to pick up the slack in Brandt’s absence. Expect Collier to regain the starting spot he had last season after exploding for a career-high 27 points and 14 boards in the third-place 2kSports game in New York.
  5. Top ten recruit Aaron Gordon cut his list of schools down to three this past weekend, including a pair of Pac-12 schools, Washington and Arizona. However, the other school in Gordon’s three is Kentucky and it’s hard to bet against John Calipari when he wants a recruit. Still, with Aaron Gordon having ties to the West Coast, there’s a good chance he could end up in Seattle or Tucson. Scouts say Gordon has an NBA future and if Gordon were to land in the Pac-12, it would be great for the conference to continue its attempt of getting back to being a dominant conference in college basketball.
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Pac-12 M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 9th, 2012

  1. We hit the big news yesterday about Omar Oraby being declared eligible yesterday for USC, but now Oregon has to sit back and wait for news on its own Rice big man, Arsalan Kazemi, who transferred out of Rice and to Oregon for reasons similar as Oraby. The common perception is that if Oraby got freed, then Kazemi must be next, but that is little comfort for the Ducks who face the prospect of opening their season tomorrow night without his services. Certainly, Oregon should be able to handle the likes of Northern Arizona and Portland State as they stand now, but the Ducks would sure like to have Kazemi in uniform a week from today when they host a young but talented Vanderbilt squad. With him in tow, the Ducks have a seriously strong frontcourt that could make a splash near the top of the conference standings.
  2. An important correction for a recent bit of misinformation. On Wednesday morning we relayed the Los Angeles Times’ info that Shabazz Muhammad, were he healthy, would be able to participate in UCLA’s opener since it was within the 45-day window for him to participate with the team. Actually, that’s not quite right. The 45-day window allows Muhammad to participate in practices, but he won’t be eligible to compete in games until officially cleared by the NCAA, a timeline of which is still unknown. So, as it stands, the Bruins will open their season and their new-look Pauley Pavilion tonight against Indiana State, the only other school of which John Wooden held the head coaching job.
  3. Speaking of Wooden, the Wooden Award Watch List was unveiled on Thursday and four different Pac-12 student-athletes earned recognition: Colorado’s Andre Roberson, California’s Allen Crabbe, Arizona’s Solomon Hill and Washington State’s Brock Motum. Of the four, Roberson is the one with the best chance of earning the individual honor, although Hill’s team is expected to have greater success. Still, Hill’s game is more of a below-the-radar game and, with guys like Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson expected to shoulder much of the scoring load, it’s unlikely he will put up the individual statistics necessary to shoulder the load. Speaking of Lyons, transfers and freshmen are ineligible for inclusion on the Preseason Top 50 list, which is why players like he, Shabazz Muhammad, and Kyle Anderson, to name just a few, are not listed.
  4. Our last bit of news for the morning is that a legacy, Kameron Rooks, son of former Arizona center and long-time NBA big man Sean Rooks, was offered a scholarship by Arizona. The younger Rooks is a seven-footer just like his old man, who possesses enough talent to have received similar offers from Washington, Arizona State, and Oregon State. Like his father, Kameron has a massive body, long arms, and is a back-to-the-basket scorer. Still, at 275 pounds, his conditioning will always be a concern and he is regarded as still a work in progress. He’s currently a senior in high school and is listed as a three-star recruit.
  5. Another week, another chance for me to rub in the fact that I am absolutely killing Connor in our weekly football pick ‘em contest. I took a three-game lead into last week’s picks and, behind UCLA’s drubbing of Arizona at the Rose Bowl, extended it up to four. But I ain’t about to pull a Phil Ford and drop back into the Four Corners here to run some clock. Nope. Even though Connor sent me his picks first, I’m confident enough to put half of that four-game lead on the line this week. And, assuming I don’t completely overdose on hoops action Friday night, I’m looking forward to another great Saturday (although not quite as great as last Saturday) of college football action. Our picks below, with, as always, our game of the week in bold.
Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
Colorado at Arizona Arizona Arizona
Utah at Washington Utah Washington
Arizona State at USC USC USC
Oregon at California Oregon Oregon
Oregon State at Stanford Stanford 26-23 Oregon State 17-16
UCLA at Washington State UCLA UCLA
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Pac-12 M5:11.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2012

  1. Pac-12 basketball exhibition games are generally meaningless affairs where a big school beats up on an overmatched foe while the former’s head coach tinkers around with different lineups and different styles. Usually the Pac-12 team wins going away and no one loses too much sleep about the result one way or the other. Still, valuable information can be gleaned from some of these games: Which returnee has made the biggest strides, which of the newcomers can make an impact early in their careers, and who is getting passed up for playing time? For Arizona, with three new and talented freshman big men, sophomore forward Angelo Chol is battling for a spot in the lineup and he’s had some struggles in the team’s two exhibitions. He’s missed some point-blank shots and has lost some confidence, but head coach Sean Miller is still relying on him to earn minutes while senior leader Solomon Hill is doing his best to keep Chol’s head in the game. Hill, on the other hand, was nearly flawless in his latest outing against Chico State (an Arizona win, 98-60) , with only a late missed free throw and a single turnover as blemishes on his performance.
  2. We’ve all got our favorite Pac-12 blogs, but one of my personal favorites is Coug Center. There are times when it seems like you’ve got to hunt down information about Washington State, and over the years I’ve found Coug Center to be by far the best place to keep up to date with all things WSU. While football is still king there (and a lot of other places) for the time being, Kyle Sherwood, Jeff Nusser and Craig Powers did a great job running down their thoughts on the upcoming season. In light of the Reggie Moore dismissal, topic number one was who will play point guard and they’ve got no better answer than anyone else, other than the fact that Royce Woolridge, DaVonte Lacy and Mike Ladd are going to be forced into a lot of minutes and a point guard-by-committee situation. Who knows, it could work, but just remembering Arizona State last year without any real point guard leaves plenty of room for doubt.
  3. We’ve talked in the past about Utah’s complete remaking of its roster, and there is little doubt that Larry Krystkowiak has upped the talent level there. But with many other programs around the conference improved as well, the question remains whether his new roster will result in additional wins. Based on a ridiculously week non-conference schedule, one would hope the Utes would be able to notch at least six wins prior to conference play, but can they improve on last year’s three Pac-12 wins? Many around the conference are picking Utah at the back of the pack — they were 12th in the preseason Pac-12 poll — but with capable offensive players like Jarred DuBois, Aaron Dotson and Jordan Loveridge as well as a deeper bench than the Utes have had in a couple of years, you can probably expect their improved talent to be reflected in their final record, even if they’re still almost certainly doomed to a lower-division finish.
  4. Back on the recruiting trail, UCLA landed three-star wing Noah Allen in the Class of 2013 on Tuesday. A one-time Harvard commitment, Allen certainly isn’t the type of player that head coach Ben Howland landed last year — recruiting guru Evan Daniels calls him “a four-year guy” who is more of a long-term project than an immediate impact player. Interestingly enough, apparently Howland made the offer without ever having seen Allen play in person. We’re guessing that there won’t be any eligibility concerns with this prospect roughly a year from now.
  5. Lastly, we’ll hop across town where USC head coach Kevin O’Neill has named junior J.T. Terrell as the starter at the two-guard, beating out returning starter Byron Wesley for the job. Wesley is still expected to get plenty of run, both in relief of Terrell and at the other wing spot, but, man, sometimes the things that O’Neill says just makes you shake your head in disbelief. “He’s finally starting to play hard,” said O’Neill, inferring that for the longest time, Terrell wasn’t playing hard. O’Neill then went on to say that Terrell is “more intelligent than I thought he was.” Goodness. It makes you wonder if O’Neill thought he was complimenting the transfer player, or if he was going out of his way to get a few jabs in his ribs. Terrell’s certainly a talented offensive player, but you know in order to play for K.O.’s Trojans, you’ve got to be committed to give good effort on the defensive end. I would suspect Terrell’s defensive intensity, or lack thereof, is where these latest back-handed compliments stem from.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 7th, 2012

  1. In an election night shocker, word came out of Los Angeles last night that Shabazz Muhammad could be available to play in UCLA’s opener on Friday night against Indiana State. No Bruins fans, this breaking news doesn’t have anything to do with the NCAA clearing the heralded freshman but rather more to do with the fact that he may be ahead of schedule in his return from a right shoulder strain. You see, NCAA rules allow for a 45-day window during which players who are under NCAA investigation may play with their teams. And Muhammad didn’t get the clock started on that window until about a month ago. So, as long as his shoulder cooperates, Muhammad may have a chance to play in games against Indiana State, UC Irvine and James Madison, possibly even the Georgetown and Indiana games of the Legends Classic (although, really, don’t get too greedy, Bruins). As for his longer-term prognosis, there is still no timetable for an NCAA decision, although at least NCAA investigators did finally get around to talking to Muhammad’s parents last week.
  2. Just yesterday we ran off a list of Huskies pressuring Desmond Simmons for the starting four-spot for Washington. Well, news broke yesterday afternoon that one of those guys – Shawn Kemp Jr. – is out of the running for now, as he’ll be laid up for the next six to eight weeks as the result of a torn patellar tendon. As Lorenzo Romar put it, this injury “doesn’t impact the rotation, but it impacts a guy that was turning the corner.” In other words, the Huskies were planning on rotating four guys at the two big man spots. With Kemp’s injury, Desmond Simmons, Jernard Jarreau and Martin Breunig are all locked into significant roles alongside starting center Aziz N’Diaye.  Unfortunately, now Kemp, who was by all accounts starting to display a solid offensive game, will lose out on not only a couple months worth of practice, but will also miss out on the invaluable game experience and chemistry-building that occurs in the non-conference schedule. Still, he should be back in time for the conference slate, and unless Simmons, Jarreau or Breunig really impress, Kemp should have the opportunity to earn playing time once he returns.
  3. Another guy we talked about yesterday was Kaleb Tarczewski, the Arizona freshman center who had an impressive game in the ‘Cats first exhibition game against Humboldt State. Well, last night Zeus didn’t have quite as much success against Chico State, struggling to get any rhythm going, scoring just seven points, failing to grab a rebound, and fouling out midway through the second half. While he’s clearly got lots of upside, he’s going to be a work in progress throughout the year, while fellow freshmen Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley may be more apt to be serious contributors early.  The other big question for the Wildcats is how well Mark Lyons will fit in at the point, a question that may linger for some time. While Lyons did score 20 on seven-of-nine shooting last night, he only handed out three assists.
  4. Oregon wrapped up its exhibition season on Monday night with a 17-point win over Southwestern Oklahoma State that was largely unexceptional except for one point that is becoming clear: Dominic Artis is gonna be the man for the Ducks. Sure, E.J. Singler is a veteran who will do plenty of dirty work and make key plays for Dana Altman’s squad, but Artis led the Ducks in scoring in both exhibition games and had the ball in his hands all the time. So long as he can keep from turning it over, it appears that he’s going to get a long leash this season.
  5. For some reason, it seems like Mike Montgomery has been at California a lot longer than four years. But, in fact, his first year in Berkeley was Jorge Gutierrez’s freshman season. So, for the first time in his tenure there, the Golden Bears begin a season without their fiery guard on the roster. No matter though – Montgomery has a pair of veteran guards who are more than capable of filling in for the departed Gutierrez in juniors Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. Both are good scorers, and Cobbs in particular is relishing the chance to take over Gutierrez’s role as the team’s best perimeter defender, but Montgomery points out that they’ll also need to act as playmakers by getting other guys on the team involved in the offense. Case in point was last night in an exhibition against San Francisco State, as Crabbe, Cobbs and fellow veteran guard Brandon Smith combined to score 31 of Cal’s first 34 points. On one hand, that’s great production out of the starting backcourt; on the other hand, at some point you’ll need to get some kind of help out of your big guys.
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Pac-12 M5: Election Day Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 6th, 2012

  1. Hey, you might have heard about this presidential election thing that is happening today. What with the complete lack of commercials on television, advertisements coming in the mail and signs in front of my neighbors’ houses, I almost forgot about it myself, but I guess it’s true. Oregon State head coach Craig Robinson is the brother-in-law of the guy who currently holds that office, and while he’ll be heading to Chicago to hang out with President Obama and his wife Michelle tonight, the Beaver team doesn’t exactly get to play hooky. Instead, it is business as usual for OSU as it prepares for its opener Friday night against Niagara.
  2. Beaver fans got a good first glimpse of their team on Sunday night when Oregon State hosted Lewis & Clark in an exhibition at Gill Coliseum. The highlight for the coaching staff was the team’s defensive effort, especially from their four newcomers, as they held their opponent to 58 points in 68 possessions. Given how bad the team was on the defensive end last year, that’s a very good sign, even against a clearly inferior opponent. Unfortunately, even against a clearly inferior opponent, the team was not very good on the glass, allowing Lewis & Clark to grab 18 offensive rebounds (40.9% OR). Cleaning the glass on the defensive end was another significant weakness for last year’s team, so you can bet that improving there will be a point of emphasis in practice over the next few days.
  3. During the waning weeks of last year’s 6-26 season, there were some USC basketball fans (yes, a handful of those do exist) calling for the head of coach Kevin O’Neill. However, athletic director Pat Haden looked at all the extenuating circumstances and the overall direction of the program and determined that O’Neill deserved another chance. Now, with a roster almost completely remade by transfers and players returning from injury, the expectation is that the Trojans will be greatly improved. And, it had better be, writes Michael Castillo, because this season may determine O’Neill’s long term viability in Los Angeles.
  4. After playing last season with a starting frontcourt that featured a 6’7” Jesse Perry ostensibly playing center, Arizona is looking forward to life with an imposing frontcourt. The crowning jewel of Arizona’s top five recruiting class last season was seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, and he lived up to expectations in the Wildcats’ exhibition game with Humboldt State, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 boards while playing against an overmatched Division II opponent. However, for a guy whose role will be almost solely down on the block, he’ll still need to prove that he can score over, rebound against, and defend bigger and more athletic competition than what he faced last week. For instance, in the Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage, “Zeus” struggled against the tougher competition, picking up three early fouls as he adjusted to the speed of the game. While he’s got a bright future ahead of him, it remains to be seen just how quickly he’ll develop in the desert.
  5. With stars Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross gone early to the NBA draft, Washington may not be in rebuilding mode but they do have plenty of questions that need to be answered in the early part of the season. Percy Allen picks the five biggest ones, asking who is going to help Aziz N’Diaye rebound the basketball, and a related question, who is going to be the fifth starter? Desmond Simmons started the Huskies’ exhibition game, but he’s got three different guys – Shawn Kemp Jr., Jernard Jarreau, and Martin Breunig – all chasing him for that spot. Another big question is whether the new and improved chemistry around the program could help their defensive weaknesses. Part of their struggles on defense last year could be tied back to Wroten’s tendency to gamble and find himself out of position, but his athleticism and playmaking abilities were undeniable. Senior Scott Suggs will be taking Wroten’s spot and could be a defensive upgrade in that position for UW.
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Pac-12 M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 5th, 2012

  1. Perhaps the most tantalizing events of the preseason practice schedules are the “secret scrimmages” that take place between teams, apparently under the cover of darkness. Fans and media aren’t allowed to attend, but sometimes you get some great matchups between significant teams with the caveat that no one is supposed to talk about these games. Jeff Goodman at CBS posted a list of some of the secret scrimmages that different teams have played, but perhaps the biggest bout came yesterday. Just prior to the time that UCLA was blowing the doors off of Arizona at the Rose Bowl in front of a near-capacity crowd, the Bruin basketball team was across town hosting UNLV in front of, well, really just the players, coaches and training staff. You’ll never see a box score for this game, but the story is that the Bruins pulled away from the Rebels in the second half of that scrimmage for an 18-point win. My prayer to the basketball gods at this point is for these teams to meet up for a rematch, right around the Sweet Sixteen somewhere. And, hey, it might be interesting if super-recruit Shabazz Muhammad is allowed to play in that one.
  2. Kyle Anderson was able to play in that exhibition game and he’s now ready to go for the rest of the year, where he is expected to team with Larry Drew II to man the point guard spot for UCLA. While Drew is the more traditional point, Anderson is very much the playmaker with all the offensive skills that any coach is looking for in a point. Still, at 6’9” and with some defensive limitations, Anderson will likely spend much of his time this season guarding either the opposing small forward, or whichever opposing wing is the least fleet of foot. Expect Anderson and Drew to spend a lot of time on the floor together, but when Drew goes to the pine, the Bruins could be just fine playing two other wings alongside Anderson – either Muhammad, Norman Powell, Jordan Adams or the presently injured Tyler Lamb.
  3. The exhibition game is basically a secret scrimmage than ain’t so secret and also ain’t so appealing, normally coming against teams from lower divisons. Utah knocked out its exhibition game on Friday night with a rout of Simon Fraser. Sure, the competition wasn’t much, but considering that the Utes lost to Adams State last year in an exhibition, this is definitely progress. Sophomore center Dallin Bachynski, who in the wake of the career-ending injury to David Foster will be counted on in a big way this season, led all scoring for UU, dropping in 16 and grabbing six boards on the way to a 71-36 final. Utah’s season opener is Friday night, and, frankly, the competition isn’t all that much greater then when they host Willamette University. The difference then will be that a win on Friday night will actually count on the record.
  4. There has been plenty said about Arizona’s gifted incoming freshmen, but what makes the Wildcats the preseason favorite in the conference is their combination of young talent and veteran leadership. The most obvious leader for Sean Miller’s club is senior forward Solomon Hill, who has been warning the youngsters against getting too caught up in the numerous social opportunities available to them in their new environment. Last year, highly touted point guard Josiah Turner saw his career in Tucson wash out in a haze of misaligned priorities and Hill wants to make sure his new group of teammates doesn’t run into a similar situation. The vet’s presence on the team should ease Miller’s mind, knowing that not only does he have a coach on the floor in Hill, but he’s also got a coach off the floor to help keep his players out of trouble.
  5. With expected starter Ricky Kreklow out for the start of the season with a foot injury, it looks like California coach Mike Montgomery will look to freshman guard Tyrone Wallace to play a big role early. While Wallace won’t step into Kreklow’s starting spot, he will be the first guard off the bench and the head man has plenty of confidence in him, saying that so far Wallace has been as good as advertised. While his best chance at a bright future may come manning the point, right now Wallace is earning time at all three perimeter positions and should be a fixture in Haas Pavilion for years to come.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on October 26th, 2012

  1. The Washington Huskies had their first exhibition game two nights ago and knocked off Western Washington, 88-78, a much closer result than expected. Washington only committed 14 turnovers but couldn’t manage to pull away from the Vikings until the very end of the game. Abdul Gaddy struggled early, but redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews tallied 14 points to carry the team in the first half. Gaddy picked it back up in the second half and finished with 14 points as well. More importantly was the play of C.J. Wilcox, who led Washington with 21 points by shooting 7-14 from the field and grabbing seven rebounds. It’s October and it’s an exhibition so fans should not put too much stock into the margin of victory, but it was still a little too close for comfort.
  2. CBS came out with its top 30 freshman in America and, somewhat surprisingly, Shabazz Muhammad was listed as third behind Nerlens Noel of Kentucky and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State. After Muhammad comes his other currently questionably-eligible teammate, Kyle Anderson at #4. Brandon Ashley of Arizona is the next to make an appearance on the list at #15 and then Jahii Carson of Arizona State lands at #23 followed by Grant Jerrett at #24. Carson will have an impact at Arizona State, but that slot seems a bit high for him. Yes, he’s an athletic, great ball-handling guard, but other players like Josh Scott of Colorado or Kaleb Tarczewski of Arizona could have a bigger impact than him.
  3. CBS also ranked its  top 25 transfers, and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons, now at Arizona, was ranked as the number one transfer. It’s hard to argue with this call considering Lyons will be a key cog for this Wildcat squad. He’ll take on the point guard spot for Sean Miller and should have a much larger impact than Josiah Turner did last year. Only two others from the Pac-12 made the list with Larry Drew II of UCLA coming in at #20 and Evan Gordon of Arizona State at #24. Those both seem like justifiable choices, however, leaving J.T. Terrell from USC  off the list is questionable, especially considering the fact that these same people listed him among the top 100 players in the nation. Terrell should play a big role for USC this year and although  he might not be the most notable player, he should still be on this list.
  4. UCLA’s number one recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, injured his shoulder on Wednesday at practice, and the results of his MRI came back yesterday. Muhammad will be out of action from 2-4 weeks with a shoulder strain. The injury is to his non-shooting shoulder, but it’s still a bad injury to have for a player of Muhammad’s caliber and just another thing to go wrong for the Bruins. Exactly two weeks from today, UCLA starts its season against Indiana State and while no one expected Muhammad to be declared eligible in time for that game, this effectively seals the fact that the year will begin without Muhammad in uniform. If everything breaks just exactly perfect for UCLA and Muhammad, he could make his debut in Brooklyn at the Legends Classic, but really, at this point, that is little more than wishful thinking.
  5. Hey, hey. Andrew stepping in here to take over the last bit of the Morning Five from Parker today, just because I wanted to gloat a little bit. Connor and I have been going back and forth all year picking every football game involving a Pac-12 team, and, well, ever since Washington State laid down for BYU back on the opening weekend of the seas0n, Connor has been kicking my butt. Wait. Actually, check that. Let’s make that “had been” kicking my butt. After week one, I was two games back. Just a week later I was down four. But, I didn’t panic, nailed the Stanford over SC upset, then came back a week later to take Washington over those same Cardinal, and by last Saturday afternoon when David Shaw’s bunch was wrapping up a victory in The Big Game, I had come all the way back AND taken a one-game lead over my foe. So, yeah, I’m spiking the ball a little bit harder these week, but I’m saving my touchdown dance for the final whistle, because we’ve got a pair of games this weekend on which we differ. Picks below, including our game of the week in bold. But, really, how can I lose to a guy who was so wrong about last week’s game of the week that he missed the final score of Oregon’s win over Arizona State by a whole six points?
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Colorado at Oregon Oregon Oregon
    California at Utah California Utah
    Oregon State at Washington Oregon State 28-17 Washington 21-20
    UCLA at Arizona State UCLA UCLA
    USC at Arizona USC USC
    Washington State at Stanford Stanford Stanford
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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 22nd, 2012

  1. We’re still three weeks out from actual basketball games taking place, but more and more it is starting to feel like this is just not going to be UCLA’s year. Aside from the NCAA investigations into recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, the cheap accusations of cheating by certain unnamed media outlets, and the legitimate questions about how some of these pieces fit together, the Bruins are also starting to see some injuries accrue. The newest Bruin laid up is junior forward David Wear, who sprained his right ankle in a practice yesterday, joining junior guard Tyler Lamb (arthroscopic knee surgery) in the infirmary. Of course, the glass-half-full view of this situation could be that it is much better to have these types of things happen now than in February or March. As it is, a simple sprained ankle could just mean a bit of a rest for Wear until the seasons kicks off on November 9.
  2. It didn’t take long for the newest Cougar, Oregon-transfer Brett Kingma, to pick up on how things are done in the Washington State basketball program; early Saturday morning, the sophomore guard was arrested by Pullman police for marijuana possession and “minor exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol in a public place” – an oddly specific and yet still confusing charge. Now, we understand there isn’t always a whole lot to do in Pullman, but the marijuana busts for WSU’s basketball program are getting ridiculous. In recent years, off the top of my head, Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto have all been busted for pot. There are two ways for Cougar head coach Ken Bone to deal with this: (1) mostly ignore, offer an obligatory slap on the wrist and pray that Initiative 502 passes, or (2) make an example of Kingma by kicking him off the team. I’m certainly not saying the second option is necessarily the best approach, after all, really what is this arrest about – a college kid was walking home drunk after a Friday night partying and happened to have some dope on him. Stop the presses, right? But the fact of the matter is, this constantly happening in Bone’s program is becoming a black eye.
  3. Arizona unveiled the 2012-13 version of its basketball team to its fans on Sunday afternoon with their annual Red-Blue game. Prior to an intrasquad scrimmage, the school honored its 1988 Final Four team and members of the current team got to meet and learn from previous Wildcat greats like Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Jud Buechler. The game itself was less of a no-defense All-Star game than a hard-fought scrimmage, but Nick Johnson (who our own Parker Baruh nominated as the Pac-12’s breakout player) got hot, hitting four threes and finishing with 20 points to lead all scorers while also chipping in four assists. New Wildcat point guard Mark Lyons also added four assists, while senior wing Kevin Parrom added four three-pointers of his own. Arizona Desert Swarm has some video highlights of the game and the surrounding festivities. But perhaps the biggest part of the day was UA hosting at least eight recruits, including Aaron Gordon, whom Sean Miller (and other coaches around the country) seriously covet. Given that the 2011 version of the Red-Blue game helped the ‘Cats land Kaleb Tarczewski, the game is becoming a way of tying the great history of the program to its bright future.
  4. Arizona wasn’t the only school holding events for their fans this weekend. Stanford held its Friday Frenzy event on, when else, Friday evening, featuring its annual Cardinal-White scrimmage, a dunk contest, and various other events. Oddly enough, the winner of the dunk contest wasn’t even a member of the basketball team, as senior All-American high jumper Jules Sharpe took home the title, edging out junior forward Josh Huestis. As for the scrimmage, junior forward Dwight Powell (our Kevin Danna’s pick for the Pac-12 breakout player) led all scorers with 19 points, getting it done not only from the perimeter but also on the block. It was sophomore guard Chasson Randle, who had 16 points on seven-for-nine shooting, however, who had the last laugh, leading his Cardinal team to an eight-point win over Powell’s White squad.
  5. Lastly, Arizona State’s Maroon-Gold scrimmage was Saturday afternoon, giving Sun Devil fans their first chance to see the long-awaited debut of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. Early reports are that, behind Carson, ASU looks like it may live up to Herb Sendek’s promises of a drastically increased tempo. Carson led all scorers with 18 points in the game, while newly eligible transfer Evan Gordon also impressed. The game featured three different 10-minute periods, with Carson splitting time on each team over the course of the scrimmage, but one good takeaway for how important he’ll be to ASU is the fact that whichever team he was on wound up winning each of the three different periods.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 12th, 2012

  1. One of the things we love about college basketball is that every year, there are loads and loads of teams with brand new looks. You’ve got freshmen coming in and transfers and kids back from injuries. The entire makeup of a team can change from year to year, for better or for worse. This year in the Pac-12 is no different, but in some cases, these changes seem to be a bit more extreme than normal, with several teams across the conference ready to unveil a completely remade roster. Today, as practices kick off around the country, we’ll take a look at five of those teams, beginning with Utah, where second-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak welcomes in a roster that returns just two scholarship players from last year’s 6-25 team. Given the depths to which the talent level plunged in Salt Lake City last year, the remake was desperately needed, and Krystkowiak is certain that the team is ready to be much more competitive. With 10 new scholarship faces on the roster, the battle for time is tight and ongoing, with the head man mentioning that the Ute starting lineup may be a shifting five over the course of the year.
  2. As bad as the Utes were last year, USC was even worse, limping (quite literally) home to a 1-17 record. Along the way, the Trojans turned into the walking wounded with dozens, if not hundreds, of players (overstatement is of use here) lost for the season to injury. But not only does Kevin O’Neill have many of those players coming back from last year’s injuries, but he’s got transfers galore and, all told, plenty of talent up and down the bench. Never one for understatement, O’Neill last season called then sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon a future NBA lottery pick, while this year he is going out on a limb and projecting Rice transfer Omar Oraby as a future 12- or 13-year pro, although USC is still waiting on word from the NCAA as to whether he’ll receive a waiver to be able to play this year. But O’Neill is most excited about getting back the services of senior point guard Jio Fontan, whom he calls the heart and soul of the team.
  3. Washington State’s 2011-12 season was slightly more successful than either of the above teams’, but like both USC and Utah, the Cougs will unveil a new-look squad as well. Brock Motum returns after his breakout junior season, as does returning starter DaVonte Lacy and four other players, but things are going to have to be different in Pullman this season. But despite being minus recently-dismissed point guard Reggie Moore, head coach Ken Bone thinks this will be a better team than last year, with the combo of Lacy and Kansas-transfer Royce Woolridge being an upgrade over the would-be senior. And Bone hopes that the Cougs’ underdog status will help the squad “pull together.” Reading between the lines a bit, it seems I may not be the only one who thinks the loss of Moore could turn out to be addition by subtraction.
  4. Oregon advanced to the NIT last season, but after five graduating seniors and three freshmen transferring out of the program last year, the Ducks were in need of a talent infusion of their own. Enter a five-man freshman class, two junior college transfers, and Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi (who is appealing to the NCAA for immediate eligibility), and returnee EJ Singler, for one, is excited about the additional size and athleticism added to Dana Altman’s roster. The number of new players could jump to nine once the football season ends, assuming freshman Arik Armstead joins the team in January, but the number could have even been 10. However, junior college transfer Devon Branch opted not to enroll at UO for the fall semester, instead opting to go the Division II route, which would give him one more season of eligibility than he would have had in Eugene.
  5. The roster makeover for Washington is not as massive as in any of the above four stops, but the Huskies are without their two highest profile stars from last season’s Pac-12 regular season champion. Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. left eligibility on the table when they split for the NBA, but it was no secret that last year’s squad underachieved in part due to chemistry issues that never got fully resolved. Lorenzo Romar commented on Twitter that this team has the chemistry and attitude that the coaching staff appreciates, a remark that seems to draw a direct comparison to last year’s squad. Put on your special glasses and it might as well read: “last year’s team had no chemistry because there were too many guys worried about getting the credit.” There’s still plenty of talent up in Seattle, with proven upperclassmen Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye leading the way, so if the intangibles shift a little in the right direction, the 2012-13 edition of the Huskies could be an improvement on last year’s more talented squad.
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